Best Of Dallas

The 10 Best Music Festivals in Dallas-Fort Worth

Texas is in the thick of festival season, and that goes for much more than just the marquee events in Austin. Dallas plays host to some of the year's biggest North Texas music festivals, made possible thanks to the cooler weather of the fall. That means it's a perfect occasion to take a look at which festivals — from all the across the calendar year — stand out from the pack in Dallas-Fort Worth.
10. Old 97's County Fair

Rhett Miller and Company play so often in DFW that it's easy to take them for granted. Last April, though, they threw some excitement into the proceedings by introducing a daylong festival located in the heart of downtown Dallas' Main Street District. The Old 97's served as headliners and brought some of the heaviest hitters in the Americana genre along with them, like Drive-By Truckers, Nikki Lane and Justin Townes Earle. With the help of the Homegrown organizers, they also served up some of the area's finest food truck offerings, plus carnival games and a giant Ferris wheel — making it something of an off-season sampling of the Texas State Fair. Jeff Strowe
9. Elm St. Music & Tattoo Fest

Elm St. Music & Tattoo Fest, so named after tattoo artist and festival co-founder Oliver Peck's parlor, is as Deep Ellum as a music festival gets. Based at the bar that never sleeps, Three Links, and boasting Rev. Horton Heat as a co-founder and annual headliner, the Tattoo Fest has a long list of punk acts that have been on the bill, from Agnostic Front to Black Flag to Leftover Crack. It's the antithesis to the "uptownization" of the neighborhood. Still, having once rotated from year to year to land on Friday the 13th (anyone and everyone who attends has a No. 13 tattoo), even the Tattoo Fest has gone a little more straight laced, settling this year on a regular date in May. Jeff Gage
8. Denton Arts & Jazz Fest

With The University of North Texas sporting a world-renowned jazz program, it's little wonder that this festival shines as one of DFW's brightest beacons of musical performance. Spread out across 20 acres of downtown Denton park space, the weekend-long event showcases both accomplished local performers like UNT's One O' Clock Lab Band and a bevy of regional and national acts that fill the festival's seven stages — though it's not exclusively jazz that gets booked there, either. The grounds are filled with countless arts and crafts stands, traditional Texas cuisine, and boatloads of beer and wine. And, oh yeah, admission is totally free of charge. Hard to argue with that. JS
7. 35 Denton

35 Denton is the blueprint for the downtown Denton music festival. Combining smaller outdoor stages and indoor bar and restaurant spaces, each spring 35 Denton turns the town square area into a melting pot of musical acts, performance artists and curious onlookers. It's the same format used by Oaktopia, although its arguably lost a step to its younger counterpart since taking a hiatus in 2014. But the point is less about quantity and more about quality. Whether you're head banging into the night with White Lung, engaging with locals like Will Johnson and Jessie Frye, or sitting in on a cigar box guitar workshop, you'll find yourself joyfully entertained. JS
6. Lights All Night

The biggest annual music festival in Dallas is one that certain music fans aren't likely to take seriously. That's because it's an EDM festival, what with all those kids wearing neon and waving glow sticks while a DJ pushes buttons on the stage. Except Lights All Night is an event that should be taken very seriously, as they've consistently booked some of the biggest DJs in the world, like Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Kaskade. Now established as a New Year's tradition, LAN can fill up Dallas Market Hall two nights in a row — and this year, they've even expanded with a second installment in El Paso. LAN is big, and it's continuing to grow. JG

5. Homegrown Festival

The benchmark for boutique festivals in North Texas, Homegrown is an event that knows how to stay in its lane. Keeping strictly to a 12-band, exclusively Texan format, it mixes up-and-coming local talent with some of the biggest names in the Lone Star State, like ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Spoon and Neon Indian. The lineup often leans towards indie and folk rock, but there's always some R&B, hip-hop and even country thrown in the mix. A family-friendly event, Homegrown's found a comfortable home in Main St. Garden Park, but it's adaptable enough that even a weather-induced move indoors didn't spoil the occasion last year. JG
4. Spillover

Once known as Bro Fest, Spillover — curated by Dallas promoter Parade of Flesh — may have the most self-explanatory name on this list. Each year when musicians flood into Texas for blue-chip fests in Austin, it creates the "spillover" effect of traveling bands looking to pick up extra gigs on the road. Spillover, which aligns itself with the final weekend of South By Southwest, makes use of that phenomenon better than anyone else in Dallas. But, like Homegrown, it thrives on doing a certain thing very well, in this case booking artists that already fit PoF's punk tendencies, like the Coat Hangers or Diarrhea Planet. JG
3. Untapped Dallas

Folks in DFW love their beer about as much as they love their music. And, since this region is a hotbed of both, there's a festival for that. Untapped brings the best of these worlds together with both national and local musical acts and brews that combine to keep folks entertained throughout the day. It's such a logical pairing that they've reproduced it in cities like Houston and San Antonio — but the flagship Dallas event, moved last year to Fair Park and headlined by the Flaming Lips, remains the best. Just remember: It's a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself. Your musical tastes, and tastebuds, will be greatly rewarded. JS

2016 proved JMBLYA’s potential has no bounds. In only its fourth edition, the hip-hop and EDM music festival brought in over 10,000 fans to Fair Park for a day of music from some of today’s biggest acts in Future, Rae Sremmurd, Post Malone and Kevin Gates. Produced by ScoreMore, who have strong ties with some of the biggest talent in the industry, the lineups should only get bigger and better. With each year the festival adds more and more festivities like water slides, food trucks and arcade games. Right now JMBLYA tours through several cities in Texas each year, but its rapid growth shows signs it could one day rival something like Van’s Warped Tour — fitting, as it too caters to an all-ages crowd. Mikel Galicia
1. Oaktopia

Oaktopia has built itself up in a steady fashion over the past four years, starting as a small, mostly hip-hop-based fest run by college-aged kids. But they've managed to not only be the best music festival in Denton, they're the best in all of North Texas, a well-run event with a diverse but smartly booked lineup. This year's festival, for instance — took place just last month — included UNT alum Norah Jones, rapper Rae Sremmurd and indie rockers like Dr. Dog. They even added Petty Fest on opening night, a smart move to help bring fans out on a Thursday. Even with some of the Denton venues it's relied on in the past having closed, Oaktopia hasn't missed a beat. JG
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Dallas Observer Music Staff